The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2022

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2022 53 AFSA NEWS AFSA’s Congressional Advocacy Bears Fruit AFSA ON THE HILL | BY KIM GREENPLATE In 2021, AFSA unveiled its policy priorities for the 117th Congress with the mission of promoting morale and retention in the Foreign Ser- vice, and achieving Foreign Service parity with the mili- tary and other government employees. We are proud to report that this year, two bills that have been AFSA priorities passed the Senate and the House with bipartisan sup- port and have been signed into law: the Helping Ameri- can Victims Afflicted by Neu- rological Attacks (HAVANA) Act (S.1828) and the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Fed- eral Officers and Employees Protection Act (S.921). The HAVANA Act, signed into law on Oct. 8, authorizes the Department of State, the CIA and other agencies to provide payments for agency personnel and their families who incur brain injuries from hostilities while on assign- ment both domestically and abroad. This bill seeks to ensure that those serving our coun- try—including all members of the Foreign Service—who suffer from anomalous health incidents (AHI, also known as Havana syndrome) are treated the same way as a sol- dier who suffers a traumatic brain injury on the battlefield. AFSA advocated for expansion of the scope of employees eligible to receive benefits associated with AHIs beyond the State Depart- ment—and was successful in doing so through a provi- sion in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. AFSA is closely monitoring FY22 appropria- tions to fund the payments, as well. The Jaime Zapata and Vic- tor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act, signed into law on Nov. 18, grants extraterritorial juris- diction over criminal con- duct involving the killing or attempted killing of a federal employee. The bill ensures that those who commit such crimes against a federal employee serving overseas can be brought to justice. AFSA worked with the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, a non- profit professional associa- tion exclusively representing federal law enforcement officers, to advocate for the bill’s passage into law. The need for this leg- islation stems from a U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decision to vacate convictions for the 2011 murder of Jaime Zapata, a Homeland Security Investiga- tions special agent who was ambushed in Mexico by a drug cartel. In its ruling, the court held that the portion of law apply- ing to the killing or attempted killing of federal employees was strictly domestic in scope. This was a change from prior case law that had held the statute applied extraterritorially and cre- ated a dangerous loophole that placed all governmental personnel stationed overseas at risk. AFSA looks forward to reporting further progress as more of our 117th Congress policy priorities are signed into law and implemented. n FEHB Insurance and Benefits Presentation On Nov. 4, AFSA welcomed Paula Jakub, CEO and executive vice president of the American Foreign Service Protective Association and subject matter expert in federal health benefits, for a Zoom presentation to speak about the 2022 Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Insurance and Benefits Program. Ms. Jakub reminded attendees that under FEHB, there are no pre-existing condition limits. The U.S. government contin- ues to pay about 75 percent of each enrollee’s premium, and the average enrollee premium for 2022 has increased by an average of just 3.8 percent. She provided an overview of initiatives taken by the Office of Personnel Management for the upcoming year, which center on quality of care, affordability of coverage and access to care. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, programs now also include telehealth and telemedicine for members located in the U.S. and overseas, in-home programs and smart health- care devices. Ms. Jakub encouraged attendees not to let COVID-19 restrictions keep them from seeking care. To learn more about FEHB, AFSA members can view the entire presentation at n We are proud to report that this year, two bills that have been AFSA priorities passed the Senate and the House with bipartisan support and have been signed into law.